Well hello, new kitchen

When we moved into the house almost three years ago, the kitchen was always “the big project”. It was the one we’d think about once we’d tidied everything else up and paid for practical but annoyingly less exciting things like composite doors…

I wrote about it just after the foundation work had started – here – and now, endless dust and clock watching later, we are officially finished. Oh, and we got married somewhere in between, too! It’s taken four months and around ¬£30k, but we now have a much bigger, more open space that gives us an extra living area and will hugely improve our lifestyle.

The builders started on the foundations in late December, and the shell was airtight by mid-March. We were SO excited when we arrived home to see that the bi-folding doors had been fitted. And again when, three days before the wedding, we came home to working taps and dishwasher. It was almost the best thing in the world when you’ve been washing up in the bath for several weeks. After that, it was a bit of a waiting game, as various workmen came along to fit the flooring, then the skirting boards, and then to fix the final snags.

Here’s a reminder of where we were and where we are so happy to be now:

When we moved in…

kitchen diner

When work started…

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The worst bit… (see that plank of wood behind the insulation? That’s what separated us from the Beast from the East)

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Now…

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So we’re now pretty much back to normal – PHEW – having painted everything white (for now), hoovered up the dust and somehow kept the cat sane.

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We’ve moved an armchair into the corner, for post-work chill time, and our mackerel and mussel paintings have joined it to create the start of a washed out blue theme which so far gets the thumbs up:

There’s still plenty more to do, but it’s cosmetic and can be done with a little less urgency and a little more time for saving. On our list:
– Wall tiles – most likely white metro or hexagonal tiles with dark grey grout;
– A feature wall. Controversial, this one. We don’t often go for wallpaper (AKA HASSLE), but with plain white units and white walls, we need a subtle point of interest. The AMAZING pineapple wallpapers I fell madly in love with don’t really fit the subtle brief, sadly, and they will most likely look dated by next year. There’s still the option of papering, but it will be something far more simple that can fade effortlessly into the background;
– A new table. I love ours, but with the wood effect flooring and cement worktops, it feels like a clash of textures. It will also be a chance to go slightly larger or extendable, so we can have more guests round. Or just serve ourselves more food ūüôā
– Statement side plates. As a certified dessert girl, the idea of whipping out some extravagant plates to serve up a big fat cake just feels right. The animal plates below are top of my list, and would team up perfectly with the gorgeous elephant teapot that is already waiting for them by the kettle!

kitchen accs

Lovely items from: Luna table, animal side plates (set of four) and elephant teapot, all from John Lewis; Dom plant from Ikea; Wallpaper from wallpaperdirect.com.

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Big project alert: The extension

Here’s a clever thing to do…

Start a house extension that’s due to complete the second before you walk down the aisle ūüėČ

A mere seven weeks before getting married, we are bang in the middle of an extension. From the front of the house, everything looks normal. From the back, we have full-on scaffolding, torrents of mud, breeze blocks, and half a new kitchen diner.

The timing isn’t amazing, but it’s taken months to get drawings completed, planning approved and builder time allocated, so here we are. It’s something¬†we’ve needed to do since we moved in, and it’s really exciting to finally see the bricks going up and to be able to visualise the end result. It will mean that we can replace the perfectly functional but very ’90s kitchen, and wave goodbye to having narrow rooms – a kitchen and a dining room – that make entertaining more than two house guests a game of musical chairs.

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Here’s the current state of play, in its full unfiltered glory….

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Isn’t it stunning?

Over the next few weeks, the builders will pop on a roof with roof lights, knock the existing external and dividing walls down, rip the kitchen out and create a lovely open plan kitchen diner. There will also be a couple of days when we won’t have any kitchen, so HELLO TAKEAWAYS.

Kitchen-wise, we’ve gone for very simple white gloss units¬†by Wren. We’ve heard good and bad things about them, but heard the same about Howdens. And B&Q came out much more expensive for what is a kitchen and house that we will probably move from within five years. Wren gave a great side-by-side demonstration of their unit build and quality next to brands like Howdens and John Lewis, and the service so far has been great.

The units will be topped with an Italian concrete laminate worktop (we LOVED the granite tops but they added about ¬£1.5k onto the kitchen cost) and a black range cooker. With the units staying to the left hand side of the room, we’re hoping the rest of the space can be dedicated to dining, with a long dining table, and chilling out. Here’s what we’re thinking:

Kitchen diner

Quick-Step vinyl flooring, Carpetright; J-Pull kitchen units, Wren; Geo cream and gold wallpaper, Graham & Brown; Pineapple cushion, Dunelm; Blue and white print cushion cover, Maisons du monde; Rug, Next; Two-seater fabric sofa in denim blue, and fabric sofa in romario denim, Made.com; Mini potted plants, Dunelm;

An extension and serious building work is completely new to us, so if you have any tips or helpful stories to share, let me know!

Five ways with a photo frame

GOSH I’m really pushing the creativity boat out today. Photo frames.

This post is about dressing your home up without having to spend a fortune. We’re all on that slippery slope into spending lots over Christmas, and we’re being extra cautious at the moment with the wedding and house extension looming.

ribbaBut there are cheap and simple ways to show your home some love Рespecially as long lost relatives start popping round for mulled wine Рand one of them is a black or white photo frame. Who needs a £50 high street canvas when you can make your own and refresh it with every season, or mood? With A4 Ribba frames starting from £6 at Ikea, there are loads of ways to lift your interior:

Wallpaper
If you fall in love with a wallpaper pattern but it’s way too out there for the living room, why not stick it in a frame? It provides the pattern or background you want without you needing seven tubes of paint and a fine art degree to create it yourself. Why not:

  • Cut a slogan, word or shape out of it, and stick it in the middle of your white background?¬† You’d be surprised how arty and cultured some words can look when typed in Cooper Black and flowered up.
  • Fill your frame with it and draw over it, to liven up a simple pen sketch. The artwork below was¬†inspired by a graffiti drawing of a girl on The Calls in Leeds. I did the black and white version first, on the basis that she was an arty city girl, and reworked her a few months later for a friend who wanted a retro look. You don’t have to do a canvas – just use a thick marker on your wallpaper and pop it into your frame.

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Glitter

Glitter – as much as I would like to shower in the stuff – doesn’t always scream class. But take it easy, and¬†match it with enough crisp white, and you’re practically designing for The White Company. Gold or silver will make the most timeless design, as will going for a simple shape over anything too complex. Try a glitter heart in the middle of the page, a great pout, or a word. Not great at drawing cool letters? Write the word you want on a desktop/laptop, turn the screen brightness up, and pop your paper over the screen. The outline will show through most paper thicknesses, so that you can trace it.

Create your own quote

You don’t have to live life according to someone else’s inspirational quotes. If you have your own, you can easily make something of it using (LOW tech) Microsoft Powerpoint or (lovely tech) Canva.

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It’s a free tool that allows you to¬†create an image of any size to suit your frame, and add in a huge range of fonts, symbols, lines and images. Find a design you like and download a high quality version, then print it off on a decent printer. Hey presto. And it’s a simple enough process to create a new piece whenever your mood changes.

Words

Do you have a favourite poem, or song verse? Use it to create a shape on your page. As beautifully demonstrated by the lyrics to Baby Got Back below, (what can I say – it’s been a busy Saturday) you can pull your words into a long strip down the page, or group a verse into the centre of your frame. Sometimes words are enough.

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Greenery

fernWho needs a needy plant when you can pop some faux (or dried) greenery into a frame? I love the idea of layering strands of fern, or even cuttings from your Christmas tree, into a frame. Without any fuss, words, contrast, or glitter, you’re creating a frame full of lovely green texture that doesn’t just have to sit on a windowsill or table. Arrange your cuttings over green paper, or so that none of the white behind shows though, for a lush frame that takes the lovely feeling of having house plants up onto your walls, too.

Have you lifted your look with a quick and easy interiors trick? I’d love to hear about it and see the results – feel free to share below or on Twitter @a1ex_b.

 

 

 

ALERT: Summer

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel pretty behind on Summer. It’s mid-June, I’m wearing tights, and my scorecard looks like this:

Barbeques: 1
Sunburn: 1 bout, mild, on the shoulders
Afternoons spent laid out on the grass: Half
Times at which sunglasses were genuinely needed: 1
Magnum ice creams: 756*

So, amen to this. And amen to Nathan Rao at The Express for saying it:

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Get the razor and fake tan out, gals.

Apparently “temperatures are poised to skyrocket over the next 48 hours as a plume of sweltering air sweeps in from the tropics”. Say no more, Nathan. If you, like me, are now panicking about your lack of Summer preparation, here’s a selection of lovely fun items you can pick up from supermarkets and retail parks on your lunch break, for emergency barbeques and frolics that are long overdue. They’re all pretty cheap, too.

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Strawberry napkins, Sainsburys; BBQ napkins, Sainsburys; Grey picnic rug, Wilko; Pink faux plant tray, Primark; Citronella bamboo torch, The Range; Fruiti wine goblet, The Range; Three ice cream cones, Wilko; Havana stripe bowl, The Range; Pineapple glass jar, The Range; Glow in the dark mushroom stake, The Range; Floral bunting, Wilko.

* Never weather-dependent

Revealed: The new bathroom

It’s been a couple of months since we nervously chipped the first granny tile off the bathroom wall, and – after a lot of grouting, a leaky toilet and two attempts at choosing flooring – we can now declare this new, fresh bathroom officially open. What we had was perfectly fine, but tired and old fashioned. Here’s a reminder:

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And here’s what we have now:

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bathroom

Paul and his dad deserve a special mention here, for tiling, grouting and laying the floor, and generally saving us loads on the cost of professional fitters.We also got the trendy metro tiles really cheap, having seen exactly the same design for much more in shops like Topps Tiles. We haven’t had any issues with the quality and they look great.

We also removed and scrubbed the taps as they were clogged with limescale, so bath time is officially back on, and added some aqua accessories to lift the blue.

Tiles: Metro white wall tiles (16p/tile) from Stone Trader
Grout: Silver grey ready mixed grout (£7.69/1.5kg) from Topps Tiles
Vinyl flooring: Carpetright (£13.49/m2) from Carpetright
Paint: Maritime Hush by Valspar
Towels: From a selection at Home Sense
Handwash and toothbrush pots: Asda
Artificial plant: Asda
Candles: From a selection at Home Sense

The home wishlist

Do you have a room or feature that you’d love in your future home?

I remember falling madly in love with Cher’s outfit planner and revolving wardrobe in Clueless. So much so that I spent a (wasted) afternoon trying to draw every item of my clothing in Microsoft Paint, so that I could create something similar…

The impact of the new Cher, when I started watching Sex and the City, was similar. I’m sure, even if Carrie’s colour or clothing tastes didn’t suit every viewer, we all wished for a space dedicated to dressing, preening in the mirror and generally feeling fabulous. We all work so hard that a hint of self-indulgence every morning as we get dressed is an essential.

wardrobe

So, while we don’t, and probably never will, have the space or budget to go all out with a dressing room in our house, it makes it onto my future home wishlist:

  • Dressing room
  • Huge, open plan kitchen with sofa for entertaining
  • Roll top bath looking out through a floor to ceiling window
  • A view – hills, sea or city

In a bit of a showgirl mood (hence the feathers below), I planned out my dream dressing room. Naturally, it involves some sort of my standard blue and grey colour scheme, but pulls in more dramatic gold elements and luxurious textures like velvet. A dark wooden floor would pull this all together, with one wall in cream and gold wallpaper (Kelly Hoppen at Graham and Brown), and the rest in B&Q’s Blue Thistle. Statement features like the Arhaus mirror and lights, and lots of little hits of bling add the kind of opulence you can really go for in a dedicated dressing room.

dressing-room

Lovely items from:

Blue Thistle paint, B&Q; Geo wallpaper, Graham and Brown; Letter hooks, Dunelm; Mirror, Arhaus; Hemisphere chandelier, Arhaus; Velvet sofa, Next; Crushed velvet cushion, TK Maxx; Yolanda rug, Made.com.

What room or feature would you have in your dream home? Share it in the comments below – I can’t help with it, but it would be interesting to hear!

We need to talk about the bathroom

Hello, and welcome to our bathroom…

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Instead of giving each other big Christmas presents this year, we agreed to put most of our budgets towards the next house project – our upstairs bathroom, which has been lying dormant with its gammy hot water tap (no lounging around in the bath for me), perfectly nice but old fashioned tiles and peeling bath panel since we moved in.

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To keep costs down – around ¬£350 if we do the work ourselves – we’re keeping the original fixtures but replacing everything else. Here’s what’s left to do:

  • Hope that gammy tap is caused by nothing more than a dodgy washer and replace all taps with fresh chrome ones
  • Replace tiles with white brick tiles. We had LOVED crackle glaze putty coloured tiles but quickly learnt that when it comes to tiles, white is always cheaper. Putty has been earmarked for “the next house” ūüėČ
  • Replace shimmery lino with simple rustic wood effect vinyl
  • Buy and fit replacement bath panel, which doesn’t seem to cost a great deal but who the hell knows how you fit this kind of thing?!
  • Give all fixtures a damn good scrub and polish
  • The fun bit – buy new towels, shelves, accessories and artwork. I’m painfully aware that 90% of our house is grey and that our ‘Maritime hush’ choice is not far from it, so am deliberately pushing our colour boundaries with a peacock feather theme. Think teal, blue, navy and golds…

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Lovely items from:
Zigzag bath mat, M&S; Blue candlestick holder, Maisons du Monde; Peacock print inspiration, Papier; Blue agate bookend, TK Maxx; Green glass vase, H&M; Print towels, Asda; Peacock feather artwork, art.co.uk; Vinyl flooring, Carpetright; Paint – Maritime Hush by Valspar.